Meet the Porsche 918 Spy­der.

This is it, decades Porsche sports and rac­ing de­vel­op­ment cul­mi­nat­ing into one, mil­lion-dol­lar pack­age. wheels’ De­jan Jo­vanovic drives the new 918 Spy­der at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo cir­cuit

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Make no mis­take; this is a carbon chas­sis, cut slicks, ce­ramic brakes, aero pack­age sort of su­per sportscar, with a race-de­rived en­gine mid-mounted and mak­ing 132 horse­power per litre.

The new mil­lion-dol­lar 918 Spy­der does ex­actly what you’d ex­pect a Car­rera GT suc­ces­sor to do, leav­ing your hands trem­bling af­ter six hot laps of Valencia’s 4.0km Ricardo Tormo cir­cuit. Around its 14 turns, the 918 moves un­der­neath you, shim­mies and jig­gles provoca­tively. It’s got a won­der­ful Light­weight seats don’t fit every­body, but they af­ford a great view bal­ance and ev­ery level of driver can en­joy its ca­pa­bil­i­ties be­cause the car demon­strates sharp­ened fo­cus whether you’re on the limit or at five-tenths.

Like all mem­o­rable mid-en­gined su­per­cars, when you lift off the throt­tle abruptly through a turn, and es­pe­cially down some esses, it will swing out from the cen­tre. It’s pa­tient and only if you do noth­ing the elec­tron­ics will in­ter­rupt to sort it out. You can pump the throt­tle through a cor­ner and up­set the car just a bit. You can brake hard over crests and hooked brak­ing ar­eas and sim­ply let the rear lift and slip in slow mo­tion, slip­ping al­ways within a driver’s grasp.

As it’s so in­tu­itive to keep it bal­anced and needs such slight re­ac­tions, it seems that the car’s al­ways grounded and the 1,674kg mass in check, the weight trans­fer slosh­ing about within a com­pact cir­cle around the car’s low cen­tre of grav­ity (right at the wheel-hub level). It’s a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence, 900bhp and the im­pli­ca­tion of that an­ces­try – 550 Spy­der, 904, 911 Turbo, 959, 911 GT1, Car­rera GT… 918 Spy­der. A rac­ing-ob­sessed mar­que’s his­tory, and fu­ture, neatly wrapped in carbon fi­bre. The other thing about the 918 Spy­der is that it also has some bat­ter­ies on board. When you’re done oblit­er­at­ing a race track you can switch the drive mode to E-Power and cruise home in silent, zero-emis­sions elec­tric mode, pro­vided you live no more than 30km away… But even if you do, the ve­hi­cle will switch to Hy­brid mode and sip 3.0 litres per 100km. Put the sav­ings into stacks of Miche­lins.

So it’s an en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly hy­brid, but one with a mis­sile-launch but­ton, a Boost dis­play and a Hot Lap mode. Press it and records tum­ble.

The bat­ter­ies be­gin their sup­ply of 210 surg­ing kilo­watts and the 4.6-litre V8 bar­rages your back with 608bhp worth of ar­tillery fire. Two stocky ex­haust pipes burst out of the top to shout a bul­ly­ing, mock­ing bat­tle cry in the face of ef­fi­ciency claims. Yes, it can do 3.0 litres per 100km, but the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gine de­rived from an RS Spy­der pro­to­type racer and its blitzkrieg power de­liv­ery sus­pend any thoughts of econ­omy.

The 918 project leader Michael Hölscher said it best, “[The Spy­der] is

not an en­vi­ron­men­tal di­rec­tion.” You don’t say… Zero to 100kph in 2.6 sec­onds, 0-200kph in 7.2 sec­onds, 300kph from rest in un­der 20 sec­onds with the light­weight Weis­sach pack­age, a 10-sec­ond quar­ter mile and a top speed of 345kph. Sav­ing the po­lar bears one lap record at a time…

Porsche took the carbon fi­br­ere­in­forced plas­tic know-how gained with the RS Spy­der mo­tor­sport project and evolved that for the 918, then com­bined it with a plug-in sys­tem sim­i­lar to that of a GT3 R Hy­brid racer.

In the end you get three power units. One elec­tric mo­tor pow­ers the front axle and the sec­ond helps the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion V8 at the rear for a to­tal sys­tem out­put of 887bhp. Hölscher and his team had three years of de­vel­op­ment time to reach this stage – more than 500 units of the 918 to­tal run are al­ready spo­ken for, with a flood of sig­na­tures pour­ing in right af­ter Porsche pub­lished its 6:57 min­utes Nür­bur­gring lap time.

Lexus, for ex­am­ple, took five years to de­velop the new IS and fa­mously needed a decade to make up its mind about the LFA. And yet given just three years, Zuf­fen­hausen rolled out a phys­i­cal, snarling, hiss­ing, whirring sym­bol demon­strat­ing eight decades of Porsche engineering. A sym­bol that seems de­fined as much by its ob­ses­sive func­tion as its un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally (if I may say so, re­gard­ing tra­di­tional Porsche styling…) beau­ti­ful form. The Ricardo Tormo cir­cuit sits in a nat­u­ral bowl, with the pits fram­ing the main straight and a sta­dium grand­stand en­velop­ing the rest of the track. From the Porsche garage I can catch the liq­uid sil­ver 918 Spy­der lap­ping at the far end. It looks or­ganic at speed, like a glob­ule of mer­cury hurtling around in­side a spoon. It’s just in­cred­i­ble to see and look at, so much like a con­tem­po­rary Ger­man Sil­ver Ar­row. Even with de­sign be­ing sub­jec­tive, the least you can give it is it’s un­mis­tak­ably Porsche in the main char­ac­ter cues, Stuttgart’s finest son. The mar­que’s method­ol­ogy and pen­chants are in ev­ery nut, bolt and fi­brous weave.

The in­te­rior fits me per­fectly. This is one of the few cars I can sit in low and up­right and look well down on the pro­nounced sig­na­ture fend­ers. Ev­ery­thing you need is on the steer­ing wheel and the lit­tle gear tog­gle is on the right where you’d usu­ally find a key slot. The Porsche’s, of course, is on the left.

At first you can’t tell what you’re in for. The fin­ish­ing is im­mac­u­late but strangely, there are no in­cite­ments from the in­te­rior’s de­sign to ogle, stroke and ex­plore the cabin sur­faces and ma­te­ri­als. It’s some­thing you nor­mally do upon first step­ping into a Bugatti or Rolls-Royce, but here the mo­ment you drop into the semi-ad­justable rac­ing bucket seat, your eyes just fix them­selves straight ahead, peer­ing through the wind­screen at the flick­er­ing green light, an in­vi­ta­tion for the pit exit.

I grip the wheel – thin-rimmed, not too small and per­fectly round; in other words, just right – and ac­knowl­edge its and the in­stru­ment dis­play’s pres­ence in my pe­riph­eral vi­sion. As first im­pres­sions go, I al­ready feel like giv­ing the 918 my spare house key.

Like I said, on the cir­cuit it’s tremen­dous, in­volv­ing and scary just the right amount – if it was a movie it wouldn’t be a slasher horror, but rather a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller, chill­ing and sus­pense­ful but you re­ally want to stick around to the end.

The car ac­tu­ally feels lighter than its quoted 1,674kg, prob­a­bly be­cause the last Porsche I drove was the new Turbo S and that weighs al­most ex­actly the same amount, al­though there’s no dis­guis­ing it in the 911. It’s also down to the fact that 918 engi­neers kept ev­ery com­po­nent heav­ier than 50kg ar­ranged as deeply and cen­trally as pos­si­ble, en­sur­ing a load dis­tri­bu­tion of 43:57 front to rear. All the chas­sis com­po­nents, tub and sub­frames are carbon fi­bre-re­in­forced plas­tic, di­rec­tion-de­pen­dent for spe­cific pur­poses in terms of the com­pos­ite’s weave, and the minu­tiae ex­tends to the en­gine’s air box in­te­grated as a stressed part of the struc­ture. Yet the op­tional Weis­sach pack­age cuts a fur­ther 41kg off the kerb weight, al­though it re­ally should sim­ply be stan­dard equip­ment.

My track ‘hare’ for the day and Porsche test driver Timo Klück (to­gether

with Marc Lieb, part of the two-man team that broke the ’Ring record) says you can feel the lower weight and more than that, the ex­tra down­force.

Re­gard­less of the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of your 918 Spy­der, each one comes with ex­tremely light polyurethane bumpers and very thin glass. The Spy­der’s roof is also CFRP and re­mov­able by hand to be stowed away in the front lug­gage com­part­ment. I don’t know how they found the space with the fuel tank, ra­di­a­tors, dou­ble wish­bones and dampers tak­ing up room over there.

Most of the con­trols you need are on the steer­ing wheel: use the scrolling wheel to se­lect be­tween the five drive modes and dial it to nine o’clock for Race Hy­brid. This influences all three power units as well as the shift pro­gramme of the PDK trans­mis­sion, the adap­tive aero­dy­nam­ics and pedal pres­sure. The bat­ter­ies in this mode are charg­ing the elec­tric mo­tors at their max­i­mum power. In fact, they fea­ture the high­est spe­cific power among all known pro­duc­tion bat­ter­ies ac­cord­ing to Porsche. It’s ba­si­cally the Honda S2000, GT3 RS 4.0, 458 Spe­ciale of bat­ter­ies. Petrol­head? Watthead. As you can imag­ine, the 918 Spy­der’s per­for­mance is stag­ger­ing. The driv­ing po­si­tion, vis­i­bil­ity, pedal place­ment, travel and pres­sure are just per­fect. Get this right and any car is in­stantly bet­ter, but get it right in an al­ready amaz­ing car and it am­pli­fies ev­ery­thing else; the re­sponse, the re­ac­tion, the re­ward.

And yet it’s re­ally the lively chas­sis that im­presses more than even Porsche’s cul­mi­na­tion of power tech­nol­ogy rep­re­sented here in the 918 Spy­der. There were some dis­agree­ments among us press guys as­sem­bled at Ricardo Tormo. Not every­body loved the car as much as I did. I agree with one judge­ment though – it doesn’t feel like 887 horse­power. Much less like 1,280Nm of torque. Per­haps be­cause it’s so con­trol­lable, the power isn’t so over­whelm­ing?

Per­haps it’s Klück, who was lead­ing me in a 560bhp Turbo S, slip­ping and slid­ing three car lengths up ahead but lead­ing none­the­less. So let’s spare a thought for the poor force-fed 911 ran ragged for two weeks try­ing to stay ahead of 918 Spy­ders driven by us hot-footed jour­nal­ists with dashed dreams of F1 cham­pi­onships.

At the end of the cir­cuit’s rel­a­tively short straight, the cars are both hit­ting 250kph be­fore Turn 1, one of the fastest on the track, but still re­quir­ing mas­sive brak­ing ef­fort. And through a cou­ple of turns in­field, the Turbo S ac­tu­ally launches quicker, grip­ping with its rear-weighted tyres through dips and over crests with more force.

I don’t know whether that says an enor­mous lot about the Turbo S or a bit less about the 918 Spy­der and its ques­tion­able driver for the day. What I do know is that I drove the Turbo S at the fairy-tale Bil­ster­berg cir­cuit and now the 918 Spy­der here, and one is ef­fort­lessly fast, while the other is ef­fort­lessly en­chant­ing.

Is a mil­lion dol­lars too much? It prob­a­bly is, but where else are you get­ting a carbon tub and carbon sub­frames and a race V8 and ce­ramic brakes and 6:57 at the ’Ring and 80 years of sportscar evo­lu­tion? Where else do you lie awake in bed days later with your eyes closed, and all you can see is a flick­er­ing green light?

Switch the 918 Spy­der to E-Power mode for ze­roe­mis­sions driv­ing

IN­SIDE INFO Model 918 Spy­der En­gine 4.6-litre V8, two elec­tric mo­tors Trans­mis­sion Seven-speed PDK, AWD Max power 887bhp @ 8,500rpm (com­bined) Max torque 1,280Nm @ NA (to­tal sys­tem out­put) Top speed 345kph 0-100kph 2.6sec Price Dh3,294,000 Plus Old-school mid-en­gined dy­nam­ics for the 21st Cen­tury, race tech, new in­te­rior in­no­va­tions Mi­nus Doesn’t feel like 900 horse­power

Old-school rac­ing dy­nam­ics mix with new tech­nol­ogy. The re­sult? Speed

The thin-rimmed steer­ing wheel is just about per­fect

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